“The World in Crisis” describes the period of transition that the world is now entering, as we experience the last days of the era known to historians as the “Modern Period”, which itself came into existence in Western Europe in the 16th century.
The crisis that we are starting to experience is not a normal transition from one economic era to another. This crisis represents a change to everything we have known, a challenge to all our values and certainties, both the best and worst of times, as humans both rise to the greatest challenge in our history and show how badly they respond to famine, drought and conflict. The survivors of this crisis will live in a society profoundly scarred by the memories of the horrors of the transition and by a total rejection of the values which caused the crisis. The Change will mark one type of human society from another.
will be caused by a combination of factors, the most important of which are climate change (“global heating”) and resource depletion. We are also, experiencing a transition from one technoeconomic system to another, as our technology develops and industrial age economic models reach the end of their natural lives. Even without the twin threats of global heating and resource depletion, we face the transition to a new paradigm, and this alone would require new social values and patterns of behavior, in other words a new global culture.
In 2007 there are over 6.5 billion people on this planet, most of whom are increasingly influenced and affected by common concerns. Climate change will affect all humans, and all other species, living on Earth.
Our connectedness also makes us increasingly aware that we share the resources of the planet in common, and that people have a human right to share in the Earth’s food and water resources in order to avoid famine and thirst. Famine in Africa now appears on television screens around the world, and the international community acknowledges its duty to assist in emergency feeding programs.
One of the essential resources that humans rely on which is in short supply in many countries and regions of the world is fresh water. As agriculture relies heavily on immigration in many countries, the supply of fresh water is therefore closely related to the ability of countries to produce food. Peter Gleick says that, “one of the most important questions facing the world is how to produce enough food to meet current and future human needs. Fundamentally related to this is whether sufficient water will be available to produce this food.”
Irrespective of such concerns we do have a new type of emergent economy which is forcing out the old oil-based economy, which we have all known during our life-times. When the tens of millions of new automobiles, that China and India are promising their consumers, flow on to the new Asian super-highways the gas in the tanks of these vehicles will greatly increase the demand for imported petroleum, mainly from the Middle East, at a time when the great oil fields of Saudi Arabia are maturing, if not reaching the end of their production cycles.
The U.S., Japan and Europe, although dependent on imported oil and gas, until the 21st century consumed the lion’s share of this resource (the U.S. still uses 25% of the world’s energy). As other countries demand their share of this scarce resource prices will inevitably rise significantly, Americans will remember fondly the days when gas was only $3 a gallon (or lower). Ironically the very success of our global economy will ensure the end of the cheap fuel era that the world enjoyed for over a century, and in turn will require new approaches to production, and the end of cheap transportation.
The future of the soil is the future of agriculture, and if soil degradation continues to be a major problem this will reduce the total amount of land available for food production, something that could have extremely serious consequences if the UN's population growth estimates are correct.
the impact of human CO2 production has already created a green-house effect in the Earth’s atmosphere and as a result the average temperature of the atmosphere has increased steadily in the last fifty years. This impact has already been felt around the world, but the results vary from territory to territory.
Changing Our Prospectives
Few of us willingly change our old perspectives for brand new ones, only the young, the desperate, and the eccentric, eagerly embrace change, but change often forces itself on us, however reluctantly we greet it. We are now at the turning point, when the old order is failing, when supplies of oil and gas will be in increasingly short supply, when the political power of the United States, which has exercised effective global hegemony since 1945, is slowly diminishing, as economic power moves to China and India, and when the developments which were only a few years ago merely matters of wonder and surprise, the Internet, super-broad band, ubiquitous computing, global supply-chains, become the way in which we normally conduct our lives.
If populations grow beyond the available food resources famine will result. Biologists, when studying the behavior of animals in the wild talk about the “carrying capacity” of a particular island or mountain range, the maximum number of deer, or other species, that the land can sustainably support.